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Virat Kohli's India head for a grueling tour of South Africa on Wednesday looking for a record-breaking tenth straight Test series triumph, but they will have to overcome a reputation for being bad travelers.

India, who beat New Zealand, England and Australia in a powerful home season to consolidate their number one Test ranking, celebrated their last major away victory in 2008-2009 when they beat the Kiwis 1-0 in a three-Test series.

"Looking forward to the South Africa tour, it's going to be a different challenge," said Rohit Sharma, who captained the Indian limited-overs side in Kohli's recent absence.

"But I want to reiterate about our home season, it's never easy to beat anyone. We were challenged at different times and we came back."

Overseas success against weakened West Indies and Sri Lanka sides in the past two years, and India's invincibility at home, has led pundits to back Kohli's side to put up a strong challenge to South Africa, who are second in the Test rankings and have never lost to India at home.

India will play three Tests, six one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches during the two-month tour. The series begins with the first Test in Cape Town on January 5.

"They had a very good 2017. They have to carry on with the good work overseas also, away from Asia. At any given time you cannot sit on your past laurels," former captain Bishan Singh Bedi told AFP.

"To prove it to yourself, not to the world, that you are worthy of the number one position. It's not easy to get there but even more difficult to stay there," the ex-spinner added.

Apart from hosts Australia losing to South Africa 2-1 in 2016-2017, and visiting England beating the Proteas in 2015-2016, the top Test-playing nations have enjoyed hegemony on home turf.

The Indians, once labelled "tigers at home and lambs abroad" in Test cricket, have a chance of breaking new ground in South Africa's den.

"Most teams are doing well at home and struggling overseas. So this is an opportunity for India to move away from the pack," veteran sports journalist Ayaz Memon told AFP.

"South Africa lost badly to India when they came here in 2015. India may have won the odd Test but they have never won a series in South Africa and Australia," he added.

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